King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Ploughing the sea: Latin America observed

Early exploration of the islands

Engraved 18th century map showing placenames.'Hawkins's Maiden-Land; called afterwards, Falkland's Islands ...'The text accompanying the 18th century map shown here records the variant names of the island archipelago, sited 290 miles east of Argentina, as given by the English, French, Dutch and Spanish. This varied nomenclature provides an indication of the historical sovereignty dispute that has existed throughout the islands' recorded history.

Following the Dutch explorer Seebald's noting of the existence of the archipelago in 1600 and the British claim of 1690, the French were the first European power to establish a colony on the islands, which were seen as a strategic outpost in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

This account of a voyage to the islands and the first establishment of a settlement there was written by the naturalist Antoine-Joseph Pernety, who took part in the voyage. As well as describing the geographical features and wildlife of the islands, Pernety gives an account of the symbolic laying of the first stone of the settlement:

Mess de Bougainville and de Nerville had, on the 21st [of March 1764], laid the first stone of the base of the pyramid, or kind of obelisk, intended to be erected in the center of the fort. A round silver plate, about two inches in diameter, was deposited in the stone-work of the foundation; on one side of which was etched with aqua fortis, the draught of that part of the island where the fort and habitation were situated; on the middle, the obelisk with these words for the exergue, Tibi serviat ultima Thule.

The Latin phrase can be translated as: 'The ends of the earth serve you', a particularly apposite sentiment due to the island archipelago's remote location. The narrative also records that the inscription on the other side of the obelisk records details of the voyage, the ship's company and the volunteers on board.

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